Just look at the RealClearPolitics average of polls, which shows that Americans oppose the national health care bills currently on the table by a margin of 53 percent to 38 percent. That's not just one poll that might tilt right or left, it's an average of several polls by several pollsters. And the margin of opposition seems to be growing, not diminishing. And yet Democrats seem determined to defy public opinion. Why?
I put the question to a Democratic strategist who asked to remain anonymous. Yes, Democrats certainly understand that voters don't like the current bills, he told me, and they are fully aware they will probably pay a price next year. But they have found a way to view going ahead anyway as the logical thing to do, at least in their eyes.
You have to look at the issue from three different Democratic perspectives: the House of Representatives, the White House and the Senate.
"In the House, the view of [California Rep. Henry] Waxman and [House Speaker Nancy] Pelosi is that we've waited two generations to get health care passed, and the 20 or 40 members of Congress who are going to lose their seats as a result are transitional players at best," he said. "This is something the party has wanted since Franklin Roosevelt." In this view, losses are just the price of doing something great and historic. (The strategist also noted that it's easy for Waxman and Pelosi to say that, since they come from safely liberal districts.)
"At the White House, the picture is slightly different," he continued. "Their view is, 'We're all in on this, totally committed, and we don't have to run for re-election next year. There will never be a better time to do it than now.'"
"And in the Senate, they look at the most vulnerable Democrats -- like [Christopher] Dodd and [Majority Leader Harry] Reid -- and say those vulnerabilities will probably not change whether health care reform passes or fails. So in that view, if they pass reform, Democrats will lose the same number of seats they were going to lose before."